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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
XII. The Last Link
|Page 1 of 6||
POIROT'S abrupt departure had intrigued us all greatly. Sunday morning wore away, and still he did not reappear. But about three o'clock a ferocious and prolonged hooting outside drove us to the window, to see Poirot alighting from a car, accompanied by Japp and Summerhaye. The little man was transformed. He radiated an absurd complacency. He bowed with exaggerated respect to Mary Cavendish.
"Madame, I have your permission to hold a little reunion in the salon? It is necessary for every one to attend."
Mary smiled sadly.
"You know, Monsieur Poirot, that you have carte blanche in every way."
"You are too amiable, madame."
Still beaming, Poirot marshalled us all into the drawing- room, bringing forward chairs as he did so.
"Miss Howard--here. Mademoiselle Cynthia. Monsieur Lawrence. The good Dorcas. And Annie. Bien! We must delay our proceedings a few minutes until Mr. Inglethorp arrives. I have sent him a note."
Miss Howard rose immediately from her seat.
"If that man comes into the house, I leave it!"
"No, no!" Poirot went up to her and pleaded in a low voice.
Finally Miss Howard consented to return to her chair. A few minutes later Alfred Inglethorp entered the room.
The company once assembled, Poirot rose from his seat with the air of a popular lecturer, and bowed politely to his audience.
"Messieurs, mesdames, as you all know, I was called in by Monsieur John Cavendish to investigate this case. I at once examined the bedroom of the deceased which, by the advice of the doctors, had been kept locked, and was consequently exactly as it had been when the tragedy occurred. I found: first, a fragment of green material; second, a stain on the carpet near the window, still damp; thirdly, an empty box of bromide powders.
"To take the fragment of green material first, I found it caught in the bolt of the communicating door between that room and the adjoining one occupied by Mademoiselle Cynthia. I handed the fragment over to the police who did not consider it of much importance. Nor did they recognize it for what it was--a piece torn from a green land armlet."
There was a little stir of excitement.
"Now there was only one person at Styles who worked on the land--Mrs. Cavendish. Therefore it must have been Mrs. Cavendish who entered the deceased's room through the door communicating with Mademoiselle Cynthia's room."
"But that door was bolted on the inside!" I cried.
"When I examined the room, yes. But in the first place we have only her word for it, since it was she who tried that particular door and reported it fastened. In the ensuing confusion she would have had ample opportunity to shoot the bolt across. I took an early opportunity of verifying my conjectures. To begin with, the fragment corresponds exactly with a tear in Mrs. Cavendish's armlet. Also, at the inquest, Mrs. Cavendish declared that she had heard, from her own room, the fall of the table by the bed. I took an early opportunity of testing that statement by stationing my friend Monsieur Hastings in the left wing of the building, just outside Mrs. Cavendish's door. I myself, in company with the police, went to the deceased's room, and whilst there I, apparently accidentally, knocked over the table in question, but found that, as I had expected, Monsieur Hastings had heard no sound at all. This confirmed my belief that Mrs. Cavendish was not speaking the truth when she declared that she had been dressing in her room at the time of the tragedy. In fact, I was convinced that, far from having been in her own room, Mrs. Cavendish was actually in the deceased's room when the alarm was given."
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